One of the interesting words in the Old Testament dealing with space and its creation is the Hebrew word natah–usually translated stretched out.
This word describes God’s act of creating space/time. Natah suggests that the cosmos is a like fabric that can be stretched. It could also mean stretching out as when we pull the cord of a lawnmower or outboard motor. (For uses of the word natah, see: Psalms 104:2; Isaiah 40:22; 44:24; 45:12; 51:13; Jeremiah 51:15; Zechariah 12:1)
Three United States scientists won the Nobel physics prize in October of 2017 by detecting ripples of gravitational waves traveling through the universe. In September of 2015, these scientists and others detected gravitational waves for the first time confirming a part of Einstein’s predictions.
The bottom line is that space is not empty, and objects in space are not isolated. The creation is like a garment that can have ripples in it. Stretched out gravitational waves fill the universe.
One of the great frontier areas of physics today is quantum mechanics. This area has to do with the very small. It deals with the construction of electric charge, mass, gravity, and how matter behaves in space/time. Things that happen in quantum mechanics sometimes seem to violate the fundamental laws of physics.
One of the major concepts of quantum mechanics is simultaneity. The New Physics Dictionary says “Computational scientists wonder at the thought that a quantum system could exist in a superposition of two different conditions or locations simultaneously–this possibility is, in fact, being realized in the exploding field of quantum computation.” In other words, in the quantum world, one thing can be in two places at the same time.
Common sense tells us that in our everyday experience a particle cannot be in two different widely-separated locations at the same time. That does not seem to apply to subatomic particles. What works in the world in which we live where time and space have specific boundaries, does not work in the subatomic world of quarks, neutrinos, mesons, and antimatter.
As scientists conduct more research, it has become obvious that most of the standard gravitational rules still apply in the quantum area. Scientists reporting on arXiv.org have announced that their studies show the equivalence principle applies to quantum particles just as it did when Galileo showed that gravity works the same on all objects no matter what their mass. A 50-ton boulder and a bowling ball dropped from the same elevation will hit the ground at the same time. When scientists conduct similar experiments with quantum particles, the same result takes place. They have also found that the conservation laws of energy are consistent in the quantum area.
As physicists and astronomers gather more data on the nature of the cosmos, the more they realize one important thing. They realize that the cosmos came into being by agencies outside of time and space.
Einstein’s famous concept of gravity and mass as depressions in the fabric of space/time assumes that the view is being made by an observer outside of space/time. There is a famous illustration which shows a bowling ball and a soccer ball sitting on a mattress. The bowling ball makes a bigger dent in the mattress than the soccer ball does. Its mass is the explanation of the deeper impression than the soccer ball. All of that can only be seen by an observer looking at the mattress from a position outside of the frame of reference of the mattress.
In the mathematics of quantum mechanics and string theory, the equations suggest more than the traditional four dimensions of X, Y, Z, and time. In string theory, the equations suggest eleven spacial dimensions. This is another interesting agreement between science and faith. God is described throughout the Bible as existing in a higher dimension than X, Y, Z, and time. In Acts 17: 23-28 Paul talks about “the unknown God” and portrays the real God as one “in whom we live and move and have our being.”
Science and the Bible agree that there are more dimensions than three spacial dimensions and time. All evidence says that the creation process involved an entity or entities in higher dimensions than X, Y, Z, and time. Time and space could only be created by an entity outside of time and space. The disagreement is whether that entity is personal or impersonal. The properties of a personal creator would involve purpose, beauty, design, intelligence, and order. The properties of an entity that is not personal would have no purpose, would be totally chance-driven, would show no design, and would have no reason for beauty.
There has been a growing trend in the academic community to suggest that science and theology are two separate disciplines that cannot support one another. The position of this ministry has always been that science and faith complement each other and should never be viewed as opponents. The dictionary defines science as “systematic knowledge.” It defines theology as “science dealing with God and His relationship to the universe.” (Webster’s American College Dictionary) Bad science and bad theology are very much the same–systematic knowledge replaced by human opinion.
In the physical world, science is based on a method that precludes human opinion. The scientific method involves testing a theory by experimentation to see if it can be falsified. We can even expand and enlarge our fundamental knowledge. Our understanding of gravity, for example, has undergone several changes since Newton’s day when the first knowledge was derived by the tests available to him. When Einstein gave us an expanded understanding of gravity, it was based on several tests which could be duplicated over and over. Now there is a possibility that Newton’s ideas will be expanded even more as better experiments enlarge our understanding.
Interestingly, Isaac Newton also did experiments in theology. In theology, his experiments did not verify his personal opinions, so they never became science. Like much of astronomy, quantum mechanics, and cosmology, experiments in theology have to be conducted by observation of things we can’t control. Science provides facts about the physical world and our role within it, and many of those facts have theological implications.
Do our understandings in theology change? Certainly! Just as our understanding of gravity has grown, so too our understanding of God has grown. As we experience life and see what has happened in human history and in our own lives, our understanding grows. Even our understanding of the Bible has grown as we learn more of what Jesus and the Apostles taught and how they lived. Knowing that the cosmos is not just the Earth and the solar system has expanded our understanding of God and His power and intelligence. It is bad theology to take the knowledge of 500 years ago and force our understandings of the Bible on that knowledge.
One of the most interesting areas of scientific research today is the study of dark matter. We have known for more than half a century that galaxies are groups of billions of stars revolving around a core. Science had assumed that the glue holding galaxies together was the gravitational force produced by the mass of the stars in the galaxy. The problem with this explanation was that the stars were spiraling too fast for the gravity produced by their mass to hold the galaxy together.
If you stand in the center of a circle and spin a bucket of water on a rope, you have to spin it at a certain speed to keep the water in the bucket. If you go too slow, the bucket will hit the ground, and if you go too fast, it will break the rope. In the case of galaxies, the stars were going so fast for the gravity of the stars to hold the system together. Some other gravitational force must be the glue doing the job. The discovery of black holes in the center of galaxies was thought to be a possible answer, but the speed was much too fast for even that source. The amount of mass it would take to hold some of the galaxies together is as much as 85% higher than what we can observe.
This problem led to the proposal that there is a missing mass. Scientists suggested particles called WIMPS, which is an acronym for “weakly interacting massive particles.” For some time now, experiments have been conducted to find evidence for WIMPS. The Large Hadron Collider near Geneva, Switzerland, has been smashing protons together in hopes of detecting the particle. The Large Underground Xenon experiment in South Dakota has been looking for traces of them as well. So far neither attempt has been successful. In an article in Scientific American (October 2016, page 16) Edward Kolb, who was involved in proposing the existence of WIMPS, said: “We are more in the dark about dark matter than we were five years ago.” David Spergel who is an astrophysicist at Princeton says, “…we now need more hints from nature about where to go next.”
It seems that God has already taught us quite a bit about the complexity of creation. Thanks to Isaac Newton we know that mass has a connection to gravity. Thanks to Albert Einstein we know that the shape of space has something to do with it as well. Making a galaxy is not a simple task. Just like the making of electric charge, the process involves understandings that science is just beginning to comprehend. Quantum mechanics has taught us that a whole new set of laws governs what happens in forming these building blocks of what we see.